By Lou Dobbs
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Editor's Note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears weekly on CNN.com.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- American society is increasingly polarized, our politics ever more fractious, and I believe most of us are figuring out that we spend far too much time and energy dwelling on our differences rather than embracing the similarities and commonalities that unite us as Americans.
We are divided on many issues: abortion, gun control, gay rights, the separation of church and state, religion and politics. We are increasingly divided by disparities in educational and economic opportunities, political labels, ideological and partisan allegiances, race, cultural heritage and age.
America's diversity has always been a source of national strength, except when political leaders exploit our differences to serve special interests and deny the common good and national interest.
President George W. Bush, seeking support for his so-called "comprehensive immigration reform" proposal, declared that "America should not fear diversity." Those are neither the words of a leader, nor a uniter.
But the president isn't the only one lacking in leadership: Congress is hardly doing better. Even though 84 percent of Americans say English should be the official language of government operations, and while 71 percent of Hispanics agree, the Senate Majority Leader called an amendment to make English the official language an act of prejudice. Sen. Harry Reid declared bluntly "This amendment is racist." Such rhetoric from national leaders is unworthy of their offices and fails to elevate the American spirit.
Divisiveness begins in Washington, not in the hearts of Americans. The dominance of corporate, parochial and special interests over the House of Representatives and the Senate did not begin with this Congress. But that dominance has become both a structural and chronic source of disunity. Not only is corporate America spending more than $2 billion a year to lobby in Washington, but Congress in recent decades has organized itself around the special interests they seek to serve.
Almost five decades ago, there were only four Congressional caucuses. Today there are about 200, most of which are dedicated solely to particular countries, regions, races, ethnicities, specific issues and special interests.
Group and interest politics have overwhelmed not only our public dialogue but also our legislative process. When our elected officials spend more time and effort legislating on behalf of specific interest groups, the common good and national interest are subordinated by the very people we elect to serve all citizens and the nation. It should be no surprise that approval ratings of the president and Congress are so low or that so many of us believe this country is headed in the wrong direction.
Are we as a nation well-served by a Congress that created the Albanian Issues Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Organic Caucus, the Caucus on Indonesia, the Caucus on Swaziland, the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus or the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans?
What about the 280 million working men and women and their families? We would be better served if we rid Congress of these spurious and divisive caucuses that serve narrowly focused special interest groups and instead create the We the People Caucus.
Abraham Lincoln astutely noted that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Our House of Representatives could hardly be any more divided. And it is time that our elected officials commit themselves to the representation of all Americans and the founding ideals that will assure a prosperous and secure future for this great nation.
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